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“Depression is about surviving…surviving the moment and surviving the next twelve hours that you are awake; that’s if you’re lucky enough to sleep. You become so focused on the small things, trying to make it through the moment—that the big things tend to slip away: relationship, family, work, food…it’s the people who don’t understand who are the most hazardous to you when you’re suicidal.” -Anonymous

If you were not aware, the month of September is Suicide Awareness month. Some of you will read the quote about and squirm in your chair. For many, this is a taboo topic that isn’t often discussed in a public forum. For others, it’s part of a daily struggle. Suicide, particularly among the African American culture, is highly stigmatized as the “unforgivable sin” (American Association of Suicidology: http://211bigbend.net/PDFs/AfricanAmericanFactSheet.pdf ). This highly tabooed topic re-entered our consciousness when young actor Jett Jackson self-inflicted a gun-shot wound. Even then, many failed to name it what it was: suicide (Ebony Magazine, August, 2013) http://www.ebony.com/wellness-empowerment/black-suicide-when-prayer-is-not-enough-405#axzz3DPLHtEZr

Because mental health is still highly stigmatized by this and other cultural communities, suicidal ideation is often met with suggestions and comments such as, “Why don’t you pray more?” or “Just think of the blessings.” Women of most ethnicities tend to attempt suicide at a higher rate than men; however, black women are the least likely of all ethnic groups to commit suicide (Ebony Magazine, August, 2013).

A major point of misinformation is the differences between suicidal ideation and suicidal attempt. Suicidal ideation can occur spontaneously in the midst of extreme pain, or loss. For example, should an individual experience the loss of a child, the pain may be so great that they report the alleviation of that pain in death. The individual may not have contemplated a plan and they may never actually attempt to take their own life, but rather, suffer under the seemingly unmanageable pain that can be accompanied by the death of a child. What most people do not understand is that suicidal ideation can occur within circumstances of pain, but the real concern lies in repetitive and ongoing suicidal ideation. http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/

Some common risks that may require further attention are as follows:

  • Previous attempts
  • Increased use of drugs of alcohol
  • Current plans
  • Seeking revenge
  • Frequent suicidal thoughts
  • Feeling trapped
  • Severe psychological distress
  • Giving away possessions
  • Poor impulse control
  • Previous diagnosis with mental illness
  • Family history of suicide

These are just a few of the checkpoint that may be cause for concern. If you or someone you know reflect these characteristics or have expressed in some way that they would like to end their life, please do not take this lightly. If you are in crisis please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

American Association of Suicidology: African American Suicide Fact Sheet. http://www.suicidology.org/

Ebony Magazine (2013). Black Suicide: When Prayer is Not Enough. http://www.ebony.com/wellness-empowerment/black-suicide-when-prayer-is-not-enough-405#axzz3DPLHtEZr

U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention/